Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) stated on 6 January 2023, “we can confirm that in objective, constructive talks between HHLA, COSCO SHIPPING Ports Ltd (CSPL) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, it has been possible to agree on concrete conditions for CSPL’s participation in HHLA Container Terminal Tollerort GmbH. HHLA and CSPL are currently in talks to clarify the final details and are aiming to finalise the transaction soon. HHLA is pleased to continue the cooperation with its long-standing business partner COSCO on a new level.”
Since October 2022, HHLA and CSPL have agreed under certain conditions to discuss a shareholding of less than 25 percent in HHLA Container Terminal Tollerort GmbH with the German government. The parties have agreed not to disclose the contents of the agreement.
Cosco originally wanted to acquire 35 percent of the operating company of Container Terminal Tollerort (CTT) GmbH in exchange for upgrading the terminal to the preferred transshipment hub in Europe. However, under the impression of the recent experience with Russia and the dependence on its gas supplies, a fierce political dispute had flared up over the question of whether Chinese participation should be allowed. Against this background, the German government ultimately decided on a so-called partial prohibition, which only permits the acquisition of shares below 25 percent. Any further acquisition above this threshold was prohibited.
The Cosco Group, which has had the ships of its world’s fourth-largest container shipping company handled at CTT for around 40 years, and HHLA then agreed on the specified minority shareholding in October. The parties have agreed not to disclose the contents of the contract. However, details of the agreement were supposed to have been clarified by the end of last year.
According to HHLA, the Hamburg port logistics company will retain sole control over all major decisions in the event of a Cosco stake, and Cosco will also not receive exclusive rights to the terminal. In addition, Cosco will not have access to strategic know-how, IT and sales data. Shipping company shareholdings in port terminals are not uncommon. For example, the shipping company Hapag-Loyd already has stakes in terminals in Tangier and Hamburg, while the terminal operator of the world’s largest shipping company MSC says it holds stakes in 40 terminals worldwide.